Tuesday, November 13, 2012
I love hockey. Love it. Even NHL hockey, although I prefer Olympic or some other form of best on best tournament. I loathe the entity that is the NHL though. And I am indifferent or hostile (more the former than the latter, hostility is not really a big part of my makeup) to a few of the more famous events linked to NHL hockey - the All Star Game, the annual awards and the Hockey Hall of Fame (granted its not the NHL Hall of Fame but there is a tie there, why else is Bettman even invited).
I like the actual Hall of Fame itself, don't get me wrong. Its a pretty cool place. Its the membership, the honoured members, that bug me. There are too many of them. Way too many. The bar was lowered a long time ago and now anyone who was a pretty good player waltzes right in. Sometimes they wait a while but they get in all the same.
(Just as an aside I don't have a beef with the idea that a guy may not get voted in when he is first eligible but then get in later. There is a difference between, say, Wayne Gretzky, and, um, how about Peter Stastny and its okay for that to be part of the process.)
There is a site by a guy named Arthur Chidlovski. He has a nice workup of the 72 Summit Series but also he takes a look at the Hall of Fame - he actually created a committee and they go through eligible players year by year and put together their own Hall of Fame. Here is part of his introduction:
(this is) the very problem of the Hall of Fame: there are so many people elected that few know (or have even heard of) all of the honoured. The level of excellence has been lowered so that if one wins five Stanley Cups, the expectation is they should be enshrined.
And then he has this beauty quote from Phil Esposito on his induction:
Said the man who trailed just Gordie Howe on the NHL's all-time goal scoring list when he retired in 1980, "It wasn't that big a deal to me because I feel there are some players in the Hall who shouldn't be there, and as a result it sort of cheapens it for everyone."
What Chidlovski did (until 2007) was go through the eligible players year after year with his committee and try and create a truly elite hall of fame which also looked at international players a lot more than the present hall does. Players have to wait 5 years before they are eligible and need 15 of the 20 votes to be inducted. They are brutally tough markers, for example Stan Mikita, one of the truly great players of all time, does not get in on his first try. He was a guy who was first team all star centre six times (only Gretzky has more) so yeah I think he merits induction on his first try. Anyhow his case is an illustration of how tough they are.
(An aside, Oiler (and WHA) fans will be happy to note that Wild Bill Hunter is a part of this hall, inducted in his third year of eligibility.)
I'd highly recommend taking a look at this site. You probably won't agree with everything, I don't, but its a great exercise. Chidlovski includes eleven players who are not in the present Hall of Fame. He excludes 128 (!!!) from his Hall.
Now he stopped tallying votes in 2007, as noted, so it seems likely that a few of those excluded would eventually make it in. A few guys who are locks are not in yet because of the five year wait - Bourque, Coffey, Mario Lemieux, Fetisov. Mark Howe and Grant Fuhr are already pretty close in his tally (interesting that Howe looks to be a shoo in for an elite Hall of Fame but waited forever to get into the everybody gets in club that exists now) as is Tony Esposito but other than that there are plenty of guys who would never get in - Larry Murphy, Ciccarelli, Sittler and Cheevers amongst them.
Those four names are a good starting point. I grew up in the 70s and so I recall Cheevers and Sittler and I witnessed the careers of Murphy and Ciccarelli in their entirety. I wouldn't call any of them Hall of Famers with the possible (slightly) exception of Sittler and I have to say that that may be more due to the fact that he was so famous.
Were these guys all really good hockey players? Sure they were. Absolutely. But none of them pass what I call 'the sniff test'. I saw all of them play many times and I would never think 'Hey that guy is a Hall of Famer. That guy is one of the all time greats.' A guy who was a controversial choice a few years back, Glenn Anderson, a guy who would not be in my Hall of Fame either btw, that guy, in his prime, he was a guy who for a few years you would say that guy is a Hall of Fame player. When the Oilers were running rampant it was Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson and Coffey. Seriously. He was with those other guys based on what he was doing on his own.
Maybe, maybe Sittler I could say that about. But I don't think so. And while I could briefly say that Anderson could pass the sniff test, I don't think Sittler could.
Is that my subjective take? Sure but I'm not sure how else to go about it. You can look at awards and end of season all star teams but John LeClair was an end of year all star five times (first team twice) but I wouldn't even rate him in Sittler's class (only one second team selection - its tough to get those nods at centre, the talent runs so deep). You can look at stats (Sittler had four seasons of 40 goals plus and another four just under 40) but Steve Larmer had five season of 40 plus and another four over 30 plus he didn't miss a game in 11 seasons and was an outstanding defensive player.
So why is Steve Larmer not in the Hockey Hall of Fame?
Seriously though, why isn't he?
(I have no doubt that he will get in at some point but if you saw Larmer play you would rather have him on your team than a whole lot of guys who are in there now.)
The problem with the present Hall of Fame is that it is too inclusive, the bar was set low early and remains low so its hard to deny new 'very good' players as they become eligible.
Bob Pulford is in the Hall of Fame. Bob Fucking Pulford. Now the Original Six era was a different era, sure, and he was a checker but he scored over 25 goals once. Once.
Stan Mikita was also an excellent defensive playerwho played in the same era as Pulford. After his first two years in the league he scored more than 25 goals fourteen straight years except for one year where he scored 24.
Pulford's highest point total - 56. Over 19 straight years Mikita had more than that except for his second year (53) and two of the last three of that run (49, 55) when he was almost 40.
Don't mean to pick on Pulford here (well yeah I do because he basically destroyed the Blackhawks' franchise) but he doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, not one that has a guy like Stan Mikita in it. Sure he won a lot of Cups but if Mikita was a Leaf he wins just as many or more (this is another issue with the HHOF - if you are a soldier on a great team it counts somehow in how you are rated a player. Craig MacTavish awaits his call from the selection committee. So does Butch Goring.).
(Meander meander digress digress).
So we have a Hall of Fame loaded with sixties' Leafs (yes they won a ton of Cups but how many all time greats were on that team really? A wonderful team but one that was greater than the sum of its parts, did I get that right?), guys who piled up the stats in the go-go eighties and nineties, supporting cast members on dynasty clubs, guys who were really good but not great. The Hockey Hall of Fame ladies and gentlemen.
In my Hall of Fame there's no place for Dick Duff, Bob Pulford, Allan Stanley or George Armstrong. There's no Mike Gartner, Bernie Federko, Dino Ciccarelli or Larry Murphy, probably no Adam Oates either. There's no Clark Gillies, Glenn Anderson, Bill Barber, Joe Mullen.
In my Hall of Fame I want the all time greats. The guys who, when they played, were the absolute best players in the game.
I don't want the guys who were really good.
That's what we have now. Its a shame but its too late to raise the bar now. How do you tell Steve Larmer he doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame when he was a better player than a bunch of his contemporaries who are already there. The numbers say so. His individual and team accomplishments say so. He belongs and he will get in.
But at the top of this post there are pictures of three guys who played for Chicago.
Can you honestly say that Larmer deserves to receive the same honour as the other two?
Posted by Black Dog at 2:43 PM